Main Image by Mitch Kendra
Welcome to Racerhead, and welcome back to some normalcy. The long, great week at Loretta Lynn’s is finally over, and now we’re in Unadilla to resume the chase for the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Unadilla leads off the five-race stretch run, followed by Budds Creek, Ironman, Fox Raceway, and the conclusion at Hangtown. It should be a fun and exciting sprint to the finish.
Before we get into the week that was, and the weekend that will be, comes very sad news: Jeremy Shuttleworth, the Senior +40 rider who was involved in a terrible first turn crash on Tuesday morning at the Ranch, passed away last night from his injuries. Shuttleworth, a longtime presence in the Florida motocross family, was racing at Loretta Lynn’s for the first time in nearly 20 years. He first came to the Ranch in 1987 as a 51cc rider in 1987, and he raced on and off through the next 15 years. He also raced professionally, finishing 25th at the 1999 Daytona Supercross in the 250 class, back when that was the premier class in AMA Supercross. Shuttleworth’s best finish at Loretta Lynn’s actually came in 2002 in the 250/Open A class. He rode two classes that year, the second being Four-Stroke. Jeremy had 2-3 moto finishes going into the third and final moto, but he got caught up in a first turn crash in the third moto and broke both arms—one so badly he nearly lost it. His good friend and supporter Wes Kain and my big sister, Carrie Jo, were both standing nearby, and Wes remembered that they ended up helping Jeremy get in the medic’s cart and rode with him to the helicopter that transported him to Nashville.
Twenty years later, Jeremy Shuttleworth came back to Loretta Lynn’s on a personal mission to redeem himself—to get that title that escaped his grasp—only to cruelly crash again in the first turn, this time in his very first moto. Wes and Carrie were nearby again, but this time it was obvious from the moment of the crash that he might be badly injured. The race was red-flagged, and several on-the-spot paramedics and doctors immediately went to work on him. He was again transported by helicopter to Nashville, this time with severe neck, back, and chest injuries. Once there he fought hard and the doctors did their best, but in the end the multitude of injuries were too heavy. Jeremy Shuttleworth passed away yesterday, ten days after the crash. His friend Wes Cain said today, “Jeremy was right where he wanted to be last Tuesday, back on the track at Loretta Lynn’s and back in contention for a national championship.” Godspeed, Jeremy Shuttleworth.
Road 2 Recovery set up a donation page to help Jeremy’s young son and daughter in their time of great personal loss.
it's dilla time (jason thomas)
Oooh, Unadilla. This has to be one of the tougher tracks on the calendar to contend with. The tricky surface, off-camber corners, and rocky underbelly all give riders a lot to work through. Tire choice can vary if the base hardens in the second moto, as riders will weigh the aggressive pattern for the start versus the intermediate pattern for more side grip and "feel." Many riders will put on a chest protector and add nose guards to their goggles when they wouldn't normally. The rocky Unadilla dirt presents challenges for the motorcycle too. Any riders who prefer a tube tire versus a mousse bib will likely make the move to the mousse for this weekend. Brake disc guards also pop up for this round. Anything and everything to protect against rocks will be considered.
As for how riders will attack the track, it depends on the conditions. If we see a rutty, loamier version of Unadilla, riders will get aggressive. With a chance of overnight rain, this is a real possibility. If we see a harder, drier version, riders will be forced into a more patient approach. In both cases, this track rewards momentum. The layout flows up and down the hillsides, asking for sweeping corner entries. Attempting to "point and shoot" at this track is usually difficult because the lack of traction disallows hard braking and hard acceleration. Lighter inputs on the throttle and brakes are typically the formula for success. That's not to say riders won't be pushing hard, it's just a different way of going about it. Carrying momentum requires balance and finesse versus the brute strength of heavy input.
Arguably the most unique track of the year, Unadilla is easily the most historic. Listen closely and you can hear the ghosts of Unadilla past. They are likely whispering to roll on the throttle and to dodge the rocks.
DC wrote about the history of Unadilla—the old 250cc U.S. Grand Prix races, which ran from 1978 to 1992—in the September issue of Racer X magazine. Check it out:
notes from the trenches (jason weigandt)
Another year, another group of underdogs at the helm of the amateur motocross scene. Levi Kitchen’s double Pro Sport wins at Loretta’s wasn’t predicted 54 weeks ago, before he went next-level in the B class and suddenly established himself. Kitchen went from good to great, similar to his Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing teammate Justin Cooper a few years ago. Cooper has obviously thrived as a pro. Have there been AMA Nicky Hayden Horizon Award Winners who failed? Yes. But the real amateur experts understand the circumstances. Sometimes the fastest kids turn pro early and never come back to race A/Pro Sport (Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac, Cooper Webb, Adam Cianciarulo, Austin Forkner, and now even Nate Thrasher are in that group), so sometimes the Horizon Award simply goes to the best of who is left. I feel like those in the know see that Kitchen is legit, just like they did with Cooper years ago. Kitchen is 20, which makes him older than the average grad. There was a time when that was looked at with skepticism, but teams are seeing the overall average age of the sport turn older—and they also know that the super-young mega talent doesn’t always succeed. Kitchen says he has only been riding and training full-time since 2019. We are only seeing his true talents now, and he’s healthy and not burned out. Kitchen has today’s recipe.
Meanwhile, Chance Hymas, another rider who was always very good but has now turned great, was arguably second best to Kitchen at Loretta’s and at most amateur races this year. He is just 16, so he’s young, but he’s also only started coming on really strong lately—he doesn’t have an amazing record of minicycle titles, but he was always in the hunt. Now the Kawasaki Team Green rider is being courted by teams (Honda HRC, for example). I believe the plan is for him to race amateur again next year, but I would not be surprised to see him racing next year’s Pro Motocross opener if he keeps progressing.
So, what comes next? There’s still one minicycle king out there in Ryder Difrancesco. He missed his Loretta’s 250F debut with injury, but he’s back on the bike and will race the upcoming Combines at Ironman and Pala. If Ryder D gets it rolling again, he will set the order back to “best 65 kid becomes best 85 and Supermini kid, and then best big bike kid.” Been a while since we’ve seen that pattern work out. Star’s Nick Romano, best of the B riders this year, will certainly have something to say about this.
Then you have Haiden Deegan. He’s done with the minis now and starting to ride a 250F. There’s this assumption that Deegan will go to Star because of his Monster sponsorship, but I talked to Brian Deegan about this, and he says they’re far from having made a decision on any of that. Deegan knows the business—why not entertain all offers?
Here’s something interesting: You would think that Deegan’s massive media presence through his YouTube channel would make teams want him more. Well, I’ve said this a million times, but teams race to win. They race to get results. They do not pay nearly as much attention to marketing and such as you would think. I believe some teams actually look at the YouTube stuff as a deterrent, as a distraction, and even as a potential way for secrets to leak out. As long as you’re winning, everything is fine, but the moment that stops, the vlog is going to get the heat. Sounds strange, I know, but teams always think results first. Always have and probably always will. Rider vlogs are popping up all over the place, but the media tsunami that is the Deegan family is on a whole different level. It will be interesting to see how it jives with the professional team model.
As for the younger riders last week, we will let Cobra’s Shawn Smith tell you about his favorite part of Loretta Lynn’s, which he posted on his social media:
“Let me tell you a story…. Being ‘under the tent’ at Loretta’s is a special thing. This tent I speak of is where the top ten from each moto stop after the race. The tent area is filled with industry insiders, OEM representatives, AMA officials, media galore and most importantly racers and their families. Under the tent I see hugs, high-fives, I-love-yous and sometimes thrown goggles along with some chair kicking. However, my favorite part of the tent is different. The tent is a mere 30yds from the finish line. In this short distance I get to witness the most amazing emotions setting in as the racers grasp what just happened on the track. Close your eyes along with @motogeek18 and I and picture this… You’ve probably trained for years just to make it to Loretta’s. You’ve likely been banged up or broken at times. Your bikes have failed occasionally along the way. Some of the kids you’re racing have beaten you a time or two in the past, maybe even during a moto here at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. You have been at the National Championship for a week. You have sat in staging and on the starting line with your parents, trainers and sponsors hovering over you. Knowing that they have high expectations. Then you battled on the track for 20 minutes against the best damn racers in the world! In this short 30yds all of that stuff above goes away or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s what makes you feel what you see here. Now open your eyes and look back at this picture. Tell me what you see in Sawyer’s face. I can’t clearly tell you guys because my eyes were filled with tears. I love this special place even though it makes me cry.”
whither team usa? france? (dc)
Unadilla is usually the place where the AMA and Team USA Manager Roger De Coster announce the lineup for Team USA’s Motocross of Nations effort. That will not be the case tomorrow. The AMA’s Mike Pelletier told us back at Loretta Lynn’s that the announcement would instead come next week at Budds Creek. There was lots of chatter at Loretta Lynn’s, and really all summer long, about who will be on the team, as there are a lot of variables on who all will be available and who all want to go to Italy in late September to try to get the Peter Chamberlain Trophy back in the U.S. for the first time since 2011. Injuries (Zach Osborne, Adam Cianciarulo, Jason Anderson) and likely team changes (Eli Tomac, Aaron Plessinger and now Justin Barcia, who is out this weekend with a concussion and is a question mark moving forward) will certainly be part of that consideration, as will the fact that Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing will be moving shop as soon as Lucas Oil Pro Motocross ends. (They are setting up a new race shop near Tallahassee and the GOAT Farm they purchased from Ricky Carmichael.) What it all likely means is that Team USA will probably be very red and white, but not very blue, nor green, nor orange.
Coincidentally, and a little unfortunately, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull GasGas rider Justin Barcia is on the Unadilla event shirt this weekend. He originally hails from New York and is a crowd favorite here, as much for where he was born as for the countless, spectacular whips he throws every year, almost every time around, on the Sky Shot.
And while Team USA will wait another week, the French have already announced their lineup and it’s a strong one, despite not having Dylan Ferrandis or Romain Febvre. Ferrandis, the current 450 MX points leader, won’t be able to attend because of the Star Racing move, and Febvre is in contention for the MXGP title; the MXoN falls right in the middle of the 2021 schedule due to the series late-start because of COVID-19. With longtime team captain Gautier Paulin retired, they are going with another veteran, Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, as well as Mathys Boisrame, who is currently racing MX2 but is out of title contention, so he will move up to a 450 for the MXoN. The third member will be MX2 World Champion Tom Vialle, who is also out of title contention after suffering an early-season hand injury. Current MX2 points leader Maxime Renaux would also be a good choice, but like Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Febvre, he’s focused on trying to win the ’21 world title.
Stats (Producer Pete)
So where did we leave off in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross? We were last together in Washougal, and this is what the scoreboard looked like at the end of the day, right after the last 450 moto:
Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis is continuing his breakout 450 Class MX season, and his teammate Justin Cooper continues to hold on to the red plate in the 250 Class after another up-and-down day for Team Honda’s Jett Lawrence. Now comes Unadilla and a chance possibly the first wet race of the series, as the rain may be coming late this afternoon. The races start tomorrow at 1 p.m. and the weather is looking good for tomorrow.
Note: The 450 Class motos will be first tomorrow, followed by the 250 Class motos.
- QualifyingLiveAugust 14 - 10:00 AM
- 450 Moto 1LiveAugust 14 - 1:00 PM
- 450 Moto 1LiveAugust 14 - 1:00 PM
- 250 Moto 1LiveAugust 14 - 2:00 PM
- 250 Moto 1LiveAugust 14 - 2:00 PM
- 450 Moto 2LiveAugust 14 - 3:00 PM
- 450 Moto 2LiveAugust 14 - 3:00 PM
- 250 Moto 2LiveAugust 14 - 4:00 PM
- 250 Moto 2 (Delayed)August 14 - 10:00 PM
Looking at some stats, Jeremy Martin now has 19 overall 250 wins in 80 career starts. His 19 overall wins are now tied with Ryan Villopoto for fifth most in the history of the class, and 39 moto wins are also fifth most all-time
Most Career Overall Wins
250/MX Lites/125 Class
- James Stewart - 28
- Ricky Carmichael - 26
- Mark Barnett - 25
- Steve Lamson - 20
- Ryan Villopoto - 19
- Jeremy Martin - 19
- Guy Cooper - 16
- Blake Baggett - 14
- Broc Glover - 14
- George Holland - 13
- Jeff Emig - 13
We bring up Martin as there was news during the break that J-Mart just re-signed with Star Racing Yamaha for 2022:
“I’m really excited to be back with Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing for 2022. I haven’t had the year I was hoping for, so I’m very grateful to do what I love and have another opportunity to race my butt off for some championships next year. The team and I have had a lot of success together over the years, and we look to build on that."
The 40th (DC)
The 40th Annual Loretta Lynn’s Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch wrapped up last Saturday, and overall, it was a great big success, though that was before the tragic news yesterday of Jeremy Shuttleworth’s passing. Needless to say, he was on a lot of minds all week long, as everyone was hoping and praying that he would pull through.
The weather was almost perfect—not too hot, and the only rain came the day before any bikes got out on the track. The place was jam-packed, as a lot of folks not even racing came just to be a part of it all. A big upgrade for the event was the Wi-Fi system that Gordon Keller and the Strategic Solutions crew put in. At $150 for the week, it was a bit pricey, but well worth being connected to home and business and the rest of the world all week long. And the work that the RacerTV crew did was just fun to watch all week long—that drone pilot Daniel Rogerson was amazing!
Another big lift for everyone was the emergency helicopter insurance from Air Evac, which was provided to every rider in case they needed to get to the hospital quickly. Unfortunately, a few did. GasGas rider Casey Cochran, a top minicycle prospect who was set to go up against Haiden Deegan all week long, ended up crashing in his first Super Mini 2 moto and breaking several ribs and the paramedics decided to send him to Nashville, just in case. Casey’s mother, Amanda, posted about the whole ordeal on social media:
There was the usual drama in several classes, including Deegan crashing while battling with Kawasaki Team Green’s Krystian Janik, Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Nick Romano throwing away what would have been a second title late in a Schoolboy 2 moto (which allowed Caden Braswell to win instead), and the usual grief we get over too many ex-pros in the Senior +45 class (which admittedly looked like a mid-nineties Motocross of Nations with Jeff Emig, Ryan Hughes, and Kurt Nicoll all out there chasing Mike Brown and Keith Johnson). We also saw three second-gen AMA National Champions in Haiden Deegan, Evan Ferry, and Vincent Wey.
As far as the big awards go, there was no question that Levi Kitchen deserved the Nicky Hayden AMA Horizon Award as the top amateur graduate, and his teammate Romano was the top amateur, which means Star Yamaha Racing could add both of these awards to their two 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross 250 East and West titles, and possibly the 450 and 250 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships they are currently leading. (And there was also talk at the ranch that they just might pick Deegan up, as he’s a Monster Energy athlete, but KTM is a Red Bull team at the professional level.) Tennessee’s own Kawasaki Team Green rider Drew Adams won the Youth Rider of the Year award with his two titles, though Rockstar Husqvarna’s Evan Ferry was equally impressive, though one of his two 125cc titles was an amateur class, not a youth class, which is something the AMA’s Mike Burkeen says he will be looking at moving forward). And Delta, Ohio’s Broc Peterson won the Vet Rider of the Year Award with his Vet +30 Sportsmen efforts, after which he celebrated with his whole family on the podium. For all of the results from the 40th Annual Monster Energy AMA Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn’s, you can check them out here.
And as the week was ending, word came down from Pickerington, Ohio, that Loretta Lynn herself will be inducted in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2021, along with Ryan Villopoto (who was also at the Ranch all week long), Team Honda’s master mechanic Dave Arnold, all-time ATV great Gary Denton, and off-road ace Scott Plessinger, current superstar Aaron Plessinger’s dad.
Still, for all the success and smiles that the event seemed to have, finding out nearly a week later that Jeremy Shuttleworth did not survive his injuries take the shine off it all, a reminder that while we all love racing, it’s a dangerous and sometimes very cruel passion to have.
And One Very Controversial Call (DC)
And like all years at Loretta Lynn’s, there was controversy, the biggest of which came in the College (18-24) class. GasGas rider Justin Cokinos from New England went 1-2 in his first two motos and was in a good position to win the title in the third and final moto, as the next-closest riders were Michigan’s Christopher Blackmer (2-4) and Utah’s McCoy Brough (3-3). As the third and final moto was winding down Cokinos was running up front and seemed to have the title in hand, as he held a comfortable lead over another fast rider in California’s Luke Kalaitzian. Luke was 39th in the first moto but rebounded to win the second. But then on the 8th of 10 laps Cokinos’ chain became derailed back in Storyland, on the main inside line of the sweeper. Cokinos struggled to get the chain back on long enough for Kalaitzian to pass him, and a paramedic and one of our MX Sports track officials, Bryson Jenkins, came over to the scene. As the paramedic waved people out of the way, Bryson stepped out to help clear the track, but Cokinos continued to try to put his chain back on and was not moving the bike. The rider did not ask the official for help. Bryson, who’s assignment includes clearing the track safely, saw that Cokinos was getting the chain on the bottom of the rear sprocket but then pulling the bike backwards, not pushing forwards, which would allow the chain to get back on the sprocket. After Cokinos again pulled backwards and the chain came off the bottom of the sprocket, Bryson told him to push the bike forward but then reached down and guided the chain back on the bottom of the sprocket. Cokinos pushed forward, the chain came back on, and he finished the moto second, good enough for the title.
Here’s the thing: much of the incident was shown live on RacerTV.com, and it appeared that Cokinos had outside assistance, which means a disqualification. Blackmer, who finished second overall (even after getting knocked out in his other class, 250 Pro Sport), protested Cokinos, and officials had a genuine situation on their hands. However, the infield official, Bryson, is not really “outside” assistance; he’s track personnel. And at Loretta Lynn’s we have long had a policy of helping riders off the track or to restart their bikes or whatever, after some time has passed and the racer has made the effort to get himself or herself going again. Our thinking is that since there’s no one else allowed on the infield, except media and industry personnel who are told not to assist or even signal the riders, our track crew is there to help someone that’s struggling, because we don’t want to ruin a racer’s whole week because they can’t start their bike, or they get stuck under it, or anything like that…
But that’s not usually for riders who are frontrunners, or still in title contention at the time. And that was part of the problem here: Bryson had no idea who Justin Cokinos is, or what place he was in, or what his moto scores were or anything like that. When you have 36 classes, 108 total motos, nine or ten laps around each time, it can get confusing out on the infield, where you can’t hear the PA, there are no TVs, and 42 riders are everywhere around the racetrack. He simply saw a guy in the middle of the track, struggling to get going, and thought it might be a safety issue—not only for the rider but for himself, since he was on the track with his back to oncoming traffic—because the rider was focused on the chain and not the traffic, the easiest way to move the bike was to show him how to get the chain back on.
So the officials had a dilemma: Disqualify a guy completely from the results for getting help that he did not ask for from track personnel, or consider it a safety issue and not “outside assistance” because Bryson is track personnel and not “outside.”
Now let me throw an added wrinkle in. Last week MX Sports Pro Racing had a Zoom call with all of the team managers in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross about changing the rules to allow this just kind of help from track workers, after what happened to RJ Hampshire at Spring Creek when he got such much of the repeater banners stuck in his wheel that even officials with knives could not get him back in the race. His Rockstar Husqvarna team did not want him to have a DQ next to his name because Hampshire went off the track and got caught up in the banners after colliding with another rider (Pierce Brown). He did not cheat, nor did he put up the banners—we did. And while it’s a pro race, and not the amateur rulebook, that came into the thinking here: What if something completely out of your control happens? Like an infield worker leaning in to help without you asking (and Cokinos yelled “I got this!” according to Bryson, who helped anyway), not realizing you are somehow still involved in the championship picture?
This was debated at length, and in the end the referee Jeff Canfield decided that he would not DQ the rider, Justin Cokinos, who finished second and ended up 1-2-2 for the title over Blackmer’s 2-4-3 score. MX Sports’ Tim Cotter was the one who had to break the news to Blackmer, who, like Cokinos, rode a solid race all week in this class. It was disappointing and unfortunate, but that is exactly how it happened.
The backlash and criticism of Tim Cotter has been heavy and unfortunate. It’s also misplaced. Because I am the one who told Bryson and everyone else I work alongside on the infield that we don’t leave people stranded out there on the track, whether they are little kids or WMXers or pro riders (ask Jason Anderson, Jett Lawrence, Jo Shimoda or Eli Tomac, all of whom I helped last year at the muddy Loretta Lynn’s Pro Motocross race). Tim Cotter does not play favorites; he would help any and every one, and also treats them all the same, which is well. And Bryson wouldn’t know Justin Cokinos from Chris Blackmer, or Mitch Payton from Mitch Cumpstein. He was just trying to help clear the track, make sure everyone was safe, and had no idea that he had inserted himself into a championship battle. This decision was made based on our own infield policy of helping out, which applies to pee-wees, young prospects, novice riders, expert-level riders, vets, everyone. It’s not perfect, and I’m sure some won’t understand, but that’s our thought process and we’re going to stick to it.
Hey, Watch It!
Here's a refresher of what happened last time we raced in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross:
Loretta Lynn's was such a whirlwind and Jason Weigandt tried to wrap it all up with his Weege show last Saturday:
Haiden Deegan has left the Super Mini behind already as he steps up to the KTM 250SX-F:
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“ROBIN COMES OUT AS BISEXUAL!!!”—TMZ.com
“PepsiCo and Boston Beer Co. to create alcoholic Mountain Dew”—Fox 5 New York
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!